Monday, April 29, 2013

How The Other .02 Percent Lives

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published May 2, 2013] © 2013 

One of the advantages of living in such an upscale community as La Jolla is that you get to see – and yes, sometimes even ride in -  cars you could never afford.

Personally, I never buy a car I don’t want someone to steal.  While my husband and sons definitely have it, I was somehow born without the car gene, the one where your heart beats faster at the smell of new leather and state-of- the-art gismos.  Ever since I (and my little Jetta) were crushed on I-5 a few years ago by a drunk driver, my fantasy car is a Hummer Bug.  Pure parkable steel. 

I have a friend who actually owns a fleet of high-end vehicles including several Ferraris in what the Ferrari-scenti call a “stable.”  The cars reside in a garage that has its own air compressor (for daily checking of tire pressure), not a micro drop of oil on the floor, and nary a finger print on the gleaming hand-waxed auto bodies.   It is actually hard to imagine that this woman and I are friends since people frequently write “Wash Me” in the dust on my 2005 Toyota in our driveway. 

Of course, one of the reasons her vehicles remain in such pristine condition is that you can’t actually drive them anywhere.  After a tour of my friend’s garage, I couldn’t help but inquire, “So which one of these do you take to Vons?”  I thought I might have to call the paramedics when I saw the stricken look on her face.  One does not take these cars to Vons.  In fact, they are only driven on certified nail-free roads pre-screened for lack of rocks, construction, pot holes or other potential Ferrari-verboten impediments.  You do not take these cars anywhere without pre-arranged parking. 

The vehicle one takes to Vons is a crappy late-model Lexus barely able to hold its hood up in this stable of flashy Italian steel.  Although it’s a bit of a misnomer considering the parking requirements, one of the lesser Ferraris (oxymoron?) is deemed a “daily driver.”  I have a daily driver too.  It’s called my car.  I confess I am positively enchanted by this term.  The idea of having a vehicle deemed “the daily driver” made me realize that even in my own little community, I sometimes feel I live in a galaxy far far away.

Of course, there were occasions when both my friend and her husband required the Lexus at the same time.  Hence came the purchase of the “rain car.”  I learned of this when a coffee date was confirmed with – in caps - IF IT'S NOT WET OR RAINING.  My driveway is generally considered acceptable pre-arranged daily driver Ferrari parking (although the neighbors would fall over dead to see one sitting there) and is within walking distance of the coffee shop, but as was replied to my query,  even the daily driver Ferrari does not come out of the garage “in wet.”  Doesn’t have to be raining, just look like it might.  Hence a “rain car” was added to the stable, which is defined as a car that is NOT a Ferrari but can be driven should it rain and the Lexus is busy.  I so love the idea of having a rain car in this perennially parched climate.

My whole life I have loved the opportunity to know people who live lives very different from mine so I confess to be endlessly fascinated to hear about the tribulations of Ferrari owners.  Buying it is only the beginning; it must, of course, be customized so it doesn’t look like every other Ferrari of its class clogging the roads. My friend and I spent an entire lunch as she recounted a recent crisis of devastating proportions when the tire pressure sensor light on the dashboard suddenly went wonky. This tire pressure gauge displays each tire in pounds per square inch.

A half hour into this litany, those of us who drive tiny Toyotas were finally forced to query, “And this is a crisis because…? 

A dark cloud crept across my friend’s face.  She was expecting more sympathy.  Waaayyy more sympathy.  This has ruined her whole week.  A fellow Ferrari owner would clearly understand the gravity of the situation. 

"Because you could have a slow leak and wake up the next morning with a flat!” she explained with no little exasperation. 

As it turned out, the tire gauge was just fine.  Just the light was flaky.  $700.  Mouse nuts (as my husband Olof would say) for Ferrari owners.

Actually, I have managed to live my whole life without a dashboard tire pressure sensor.  My Toyota doesn’t have one, nor did its predecessor, my tragically deceased 1998 Jetta.   My car has a more manual version of a tire pressure gauge which was activated when I recently drove over to Tourmaline to walk on the beach, heard a sudden loud hiss and felt my car list to starboard.  “I think I have lost tire pressure,” I said to myself. 

Frankly, the feature I covet in a car is that proximity feature that beeps when someone is about to back their massive SUV into you at Von’s.  Alas, it does not come standard on a Corolla.  If someone would just make a Hummer Bug, I guess it wouldn’t matter. 


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